Rediscovering Our Rebel Hearts: Against the Neoliberalization of Social Justice, Towards Radical Relationships

Over the past decade, the term ”social justice” has become a part of everyday, mainstream language, frequently used by both individuals and large institutions to describe a popular image of ”wokeness.”  Everyone wants to be ”on the right side of history,” from the international banks that fund Gay Pride to the tech start-ups that incorporate feminist language into their company policies.  Meanwhile, everyone on the liberal and leftist side of the internet is caught up in the social media performance of social justice – ”liking” the right things, calling out the wrong things, and getting into debates about oppression and privilege.  But in the midst of all this social justice talk, injustice seems to grow every day while our power to stop it seems to shrink.  Communities of activists turn on each other and splinter off conflict and capitalism tear us apart.  Who is stealing social justice?  How do we rediscover our radical power, our rebel hearts, our ability to create relationships that endure and undo oppression?

Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performer, social worker, wicked witch and lasagna lover who divides her heart between Toronto and Montreal, unceded Indigenous territories.  She has written extensively on race, gender, mental health, and social justice for publications including Everyday Feminism, Buzzfeed, and Asian American Literary Review.  She is the recipient of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBT Writers for her debut novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious LIars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, and her debut poetry collection, a place called No Homeland.  Kai Cheng is also the co-founder of the community mental health project, Monster Academy : Mental Health Skills for Montreal Youth. She has spent much of the past decade as a mental health support worker and therapist in community.  As many of her projects have a failed as succeeded, and like most everyone else, she is a deeply flawed human being who hopes to do better with the rest of her time in the world.

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